SC gave Duterte too much leeway, Lagman tells justices
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A day before Congress is set to hold a joint session to discuss President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao, opposition lawmaker Representative Edcel Lagman filed an appeal before the Supreme Court (SC) to try to thumb down the original proclamation.
Lagman filed his motion for reconsideration on Friday, July 21 arguing that the SC's majority ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Proclamation 216 gave the President too "much leeway and flexibility."
In the ponencia written by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, SC said issues of martial law and circumstances that warrant the proclamation are upon Duterte's prerogative.
In saying so, the SC also said Duterte can declare a nationwide martial law if he sees it necessary.
Too 'much leeway'
"The Supreme Court has virtually abdicated the original, exclusive and special jurisdiction which section 18 of article VII of the constitution conferred on it to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the President’s declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus," Lagman's motion said.
The SC's ruling actually retained the right to review martial law proclamations, saying that proclamations are sui generis or a class of its own that falls within the judicial review of the High Court.
According to Lagman, however, while the SC practiced its review powers, it was "defeatist" in a way that it deferred only to the President's wisdom and decisions.
Lagman quoted the ponencia: “To reiterate, the Court is not equipped with the competence and logistical machinery to determine the strategical value of other places in the military's efforts to quell the rebellion and restore peace.It would be engaging in an act of adventurism if it dares to embark on a mission of deciphering the territorial metes and bounds of martial law.” (READ: Sereno, Carpio opinions: Watch Duterte's martial law closely)
Recognizing the SC's limited knowledge on military operations and security issues, Lagman said the justices could have called in relevant witnesses.
The SC did, when it called Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief General Eduardo Año to the court on the last day of oral arguments. The briefing and interpellations, however, were done closed doors.
Lagman said the briefing of the martial law implementer and administrator did not contain confidential information and should have been conducted publicly.
It was also the view of Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza in his separate concurring opinion where he said: "Both presentations referred largely to past events that cannot possibly affect ongoing military operations. There was no identification of confidential sources; on the contrary, most of the information presented were in the public domain and/or already cited in Proclamation No. 216 and the President’s Report."
The Marawi group of petitioners also filed their own motion for reconsideration on Friday, asking the SC to reverse its ruling and declare Proclamation 216 unconstitutional.
Their motion echoes that of Lagman and added that the SC has sufficient time to review evidence.
"Unlike the President who had to act expediently given the circumstances, this Honorable Court has sufficient time to determine that the factual basis of the President is indeed sufficient," they said.
Witnesses, news reports
In Lagman's view, the SC could have called other officials, especially those who could attest to the inaccuracies of Duterte's initial martial law report sent to Congress the day after declaring martial law.
Inaccuracies include the alleged burning of a school, ransacking of a bank and terrorists overtaking the Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC). These inaccuracies have already been fact-checked by news reports heavily cited by Lagman's petition.
But the SC said news reports are hearsay and cannot be admitted as evidence.
"Considering that the President has the monopoly of so-called intelligence information, the hearsay rule must not be applied on petitioners’ secondary sources of information like news reportage which belie the veracity of intelligence information and/or contest the sufficiency of the factual basis of Proclamation No. 216," Lagman's motion said.
The SC said Duterte "only needs to convince himself that there is probable cause or evidence showing that more likely than not a rebellion was committed or is being committed."
Lagman called this an "emasculation" of the High Court's power. (READ: Martial law narrative out of context, far-fetched – Leonen)
"Instead of having a critical approach to the exercise of its power of judicial review, the Supreme Court has adopted an unduly deferential posture vis-à-vis the President," Lagman said.
He added: "The ponencia delimited and emasculated the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review the sufficiency of factual basis by pronouncing that its review does not extend to determining the correctness and veracity of the President’s factual allegations and it is irrelevant that the reports given to the president turned out to be false or inaccurate."
Lagman stood by his position that there was no actual rebellion in Marawi City, or in the entire Mindanao, on May 23 when martial law was declared. Lagman said the violence being sowed by Maute terrorists in Marawi is only a show of their capability to wreak terror.
"This alleged capacity is similar to an “imminent danger” of rebellion which is not anymore a ground for imposing martial law or suspending the writ," Lagman said.
Lagman said the government has taken the role of "purveyor of terrorist propaganda" as it recognizes ISIS threat to the Philippines.
Lagman said the SC must consider that homes are being destroyed in Marawi City as they continue to allow martial law.
"The administration’s policy of “destroy and rehabilitate” is grossly errant because massive destruction should be avoided so that any rehabilitation would require less funding and easier to implement," the motion said.
Lagman ultimately appealed to the SC to reverse its earlier ruling and declare Proclamation No. 216 unconstitutional.
His colleagues at the House of Representatives, however, seem inclined to approve Duterte's request to extend martial law. – Rappler.com